Rebuilding the land I—restoring forest landscapes

| May 22, 2017

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Like two of this week’s Farmer stories, our Script of the week focuses on protecting the environment.

In 2011, an international NGO called the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) started a campaign in a dry part of eastern Uganda to restore a forest landscape that had been completely destroyed by years of burning bushes and cutting trees. The project encouraged farmers to consider planting trees to help retain water in the soil, reduce the effects of drought, and increase crop yields.

The campaign was designed to help revive the land and save it from becoming a complete desert. All kinds of vegetation had been cleared from land that used to be a forest three decades ago. Droughts were prolonged because there were no trees to help create rain. The winds were severe because there were no trees to act as windbreaks, and rainfall simply evaporated from the ground because of the lack of vegetation cover, leaving clouds of dust in the air. Crop yields were low because the soil was no longer fertile.

IUCN took several actions: it encouraged people to plant trees, provided tree seedlings for free, provided water for the seedlings, and gave financial incentives to people who looked after their trees. They also trained farmers in good, sustainable farming practices and rewarded those that followed the practices. Burning bushes was discouraged and people were instead encouraged to use dry grass and crop residues to mulch their crops. After a few years of these activities, people are beginning to see the importance of trees to the life of the soil, and they are planting more trees on their own.

Planting trees in farmland has a number of other benefits for farmers. Trees provide many types of products, including wood for construction and fuel, medicinal products, and fruit for sale and home consumption. They also provide shade for shade-loving crops, and store carbon, potentially decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Some types of trees add atmospheric nitrogen to the soil, fertilizing the crops near them directly through their roots, and when their leaves fall to the ground.

If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you could talk to farmers and other experts, and ask the following questions:

Do farmers in your area plant trees in their fields, or leave some trees in their fields? If they do, why? Do they benefit? If they don’t, why not?

What are the reasons for not planting trees? For example, some farmers do not have secure tenure to their land and cannot sell the products of mature trees.

Have some farmers found solutions to these and other challenges? If so, invite these farmers—or extension agents and other experts—to tell their stories on-air.